We have long known that Covid changed everything – remote work and zoom depositions are here to stay! Even Ohio’s Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Superintendence are changing to focus on making “the use of technology in the courts more prevalent and effective.”
Most of the new Rules are the result of the Task Force on Improving Court Operations Using Remote Technology (“iCourt”). Of much interest to attorneys as well as their assistants and paralegals is that courts are now be required to implement filing by “electronic means.”
The following Rules go into effect July 1, 2022.
Physical or remote presence of an individual is covered by the terms “appear,” “appearance,” “attendance,” and “in person” in various Rules (Sup.R. 2(A)). The use of those terms no longer suggests that physical presence is required – at least as those terms are used in the Rules of Superintendence. The legislature did not adopt the same definition change for the Rules of Civil Procedure. All courts are required to adopt local rules that “shall include a comprehensive strategy for implementing and maintaining technology solutions for conducting remote hearings, electronic service, the acceptance of electronic signatures…” (Sup.R. 5(E)). All courts “shall provide…for the filing of documents by electronic means.” (Civ.R. 5(E)). There is no deadline for adopting this new requirement and the Ohio legislature declined to adopt the proposed staff comment which suggested that this should be a “priority” for the courts. R. 5(B) has long allowed service of documents (after the complaint) via email. The updated Civ.R. 5(B)(2)(f) adds that counsel and unrepresented parties may mutually agree in writing to exchange documents by “any other electronic media platform(s).” Under the new Civ.R. 11, a signature “by electronic means or by hand” is valid. Depositions of persons outside of Ohio may be taken before a person authorized to administer oaths in Ohio. (Civ.R. 28(B)).
The iCourt Task Force issued two volumes of recommendations, suggested rule changes, and proposed sample forms. Among the recommendations is that the Supreme Court adopt “minimum standards for technology use.” In the future, we could see Rules requiring courts to offer video conferences and electronic methods for scheduling and requesting continuances.
Probate litigation is litigation, and not all probate lawyers are created equal. You need a lawyer up-to-date on all of the Rules and court procedures. If you are involved in a probate dispute, reach out to our experienced probate attorneys.
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